Atlanta plays host to the sixth NASCAR Cup Series race in three weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic brought the season to a temporary halt. Today’s race is scheduled for 325 laps at the 1.54-mile circuit. I’ll briefly discuss strategy before discussing some drivers individually.

NASCAR at Atlanta DraftKings DFS Strategy

Atlanta Motor Speedway has an incredibly old surface that is very abrasive. That means tires will wear down extremely quickly. Certain drivers excel at high tire wear tracks, so we’ll look to target those drivers if possible.

However, we shouldn’t solely focus on high tire wear history. The 2020 season is now nine races old, and some clear trends have emerged. We’ll also rely on 2020 stats to identify the top plays of the slate.

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With 325 laps scheduled, we’ll look to have at least two dominators in most of our lineups. This is especially true at Atlanta due to the coming-and-going nature of drivers who are better on shorter or longer runs thanks to tire management. It’s quite unlikely we’ll see a single dominator.

Because of some soft pricing and the fact that favorites tend to do well at Atlanta, I think a balanced approach is warranted for the majority of your lineups.

Back-markers are left with little room to improve. Only Chris Buescher, Michael McDowell and maybe Corey LaJoie should be under serious consideration as drivers under $6000.

NASCAR at Atlanta DraftKings DFS Dominator Picks

The starting lineup for today’s race was set by a tiered random draw. With the season’s best drivers starting up front, we can expect the dominators to come from the first six rows. Here are my top dominator candidates, in order, with a brief explanation for each:

  1. Chase Elliott – He has mixed results at high tire wear tracks, but two top-three finishes at Chicagoland Speedway early in his career show he can get it done. We’re relying on 2020 results as well in Elliott’s case. He has been the quickest driver this year and starts on the pole.
  2. Joey Logano – Logano is a two-time dominator at Atlanta in four high downforce races in the Gen 6 car. He starts third and has two wins already in 2020.
  3. Kevin Harvick – Harvick has been one of the faster cars this year and has no finishes worse than 11th. He has dominated at Atlanta five times in the seven races with the Gen 6 car.
  4. Ryan Blaney – Blaney has been right up there with Elliott as one of the fastest drivers this year. Don’t rely solely on results with Blaney as he’s had some bad luck and a crash that have made his finishing position suffer.
  5. Alex Bowman – Bowman won at Auto Club and has a win at Chicagoland last year as well. He’s a prime candidate to win today’s race.

One name I left off is Kyle Busch. Busch starts on the outside of row two and has five top-four finishes this year, including second-place finishes at high tire wear tracks Auto Club Speedway and Darlington Raceway. However, he has not been very dominant at Atlanta and has led only a handful of laps in 2020. He’s not in my top five, but should still garner consideration if you multi-enter.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images. Pictured: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota

A driver that could dominate that starts outside of the top 12 is Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time series champion has wins in 2015 and 2016, and has seen a return to form in 2020. Johnson also had five wins at Atlanta’s sister track Texas Motor Speedway from 2012 to 2016 when it was a high tire wear track, prior to its resurfacing in 2017.

NASCAR at Atlanta DraftKings DFS Picks

Tyler Reddick ($8300) – Reddick has an average finish of 11.8 in his six non-DNF races this year. The rookie will start from 24th and should garner plenty of ownership. He’s a solid cash game play, but I actually don’t mind being underweight in tournament formats. I’ve written him up here simply because you’ll still need to use him in tournaments if you multi-enter, but 25%-30% ownership sounds more reasonable than 40% or more. After all, he doesn’t have the dominator potential of Ryan Blaney, who is priced only $200 more.

Erik Jones ($6600) – Jones will be a chalky play thanks to this absurdly low price tag. He is a driver with top-eight upside and starts 14th. That gives Jones well over 6x value in upside. He does start far enough forward that you don’t want to go crazy here, but playing him in up to one-third of your lineups is reasonable. I suspect he’ll be higher owned than that.

Chris Buescher ($5900) – Buescher will probably go low owned starting in 13th position, but this is a driver that has five top-10 finishes in his last 13 starts at 1.5-mile tri- or quad-ovals. A top-10 finish would net him 37 DraftKings points, which will more than pay off his salary. He should be at least 15% owned but will at most be in the neighborhood of 10% owned. A 15%-20% play here will get you twice the exposure to the field.

Cole Custer ($6100) – If you don’t want the risk associated with Buescher, then Custer will be a much more palatable option. Starting in 31st, he’ll certainly move forward barring any major car troubles or crashes. Custer has finished 19th or better in each of the four races at 1.5- or 2-mile tracks this year.